Saturday 18 June 2022

Debut Flash: 'Sailing Off' by Alexandra Packer

Carl sailed off the Clifton Suspension Bridge in June 1970, two weeks before the salvaged steamship SS Great Britain finally came home down the Avon.

The jump guards must have already been fixed on the walkways by then because Carl got the whole film crew up the Leigh tower with him, using his neat bullshit story:

“Let's test the shot for when she passes,” he said while we grumbled about lashing winds and heavy kit. He even wrote his piece to camera, said he’d practice it up there.

I should be angry he made us watch but really, there wasn’t much to see. He was a dot before any of us could scream, smaller than the swallows swooping up above. Then gone. All that extra height, and for what?

I remember thinking, stupidly: “Why not wait? Didn't you want to see her come home?"

Back then, it felt like it should have mattered. They spent weeks diving for the scuttled dame in perilous storms. They pulled her across the sea all the way from the Falklands. Thousands came to witness her procession towards glorious resurrection.

Thousands, but not Carl. They looked for him for weeks, too. He was still down there when the hulking black wreck got dragged down the river. Still down there now.

I go to see her sometimes now that she’s been restored, all gleaming and polished stillness. I think: what good was it fixing her up if she’s just going to sit in a dry dock?

I had a dream a while back: they found Carl’s corpse and sailed it down the Avon on Brunel's old ship. We waved and cheered from the banks, welcoming him back like Christ.

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